LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The North Laurel Lady Jaguars returned from the long weekend with a four-set victory over Leslie County. Coach Ali Ray had given her team extra time off for Labor Day with some reservation.
“It does concern me,” Ray said. “The last time I gave them a three-day weekend they came out on Tuesday flat, but I thought they came out pretty good today.”
Leslie County brought an 8-2 record to North Laurel, including wins in its first five games. They were coming off a five-set loss to Perry Central. The only other loss had been to Hazard in the 14th Region All “A” Tournament.
“They’ve improved a lot since last year. They’ve got some big girls that can hit. They were keeping the ball in play and good serves too,” Ray said.
North Laurel had not played since a win over Monticello Thursday. The Lady Jaguars have now won five of their last six games with the only loss to South Laurel.
The opening points of Tuesday’s first set were tense with five ties and a pair of lead changes before North Laurel began to take control. With a slim 9-8 lead, the Lady Jaguars started to gain an advantage at the net. Ashley Wyatt, Samantha Napier and Marsha Boggs recorded consecutive kills as the lead began to grow. Wyatt won another point at the net to make it 13-8. That lead was never really threatened.
“Ashley played great at the net tonight. Especially in the first set,” Ray said.
Wyatt continued to score at the net with Sierra Hedrick and Miranda Browning getting in on the action as well as five players recorded first-set kills.
“Everybody I thought contributed tonight,” Ray said.
Things wouldn’t go as well the second set as North Laurel fell, 26-24.
“We had a lot of balls in the net. Our hitters weren’t really getting it over and getting it in play. We had a lot of mental mistakes,” Ray said. “We do that sometimes and lose our focus.”
North Laurel trailed by as many as six points in the second set, but were not out of it even when it trailed 23-18. A point by Daylen Gilbert started a rally that continued with consecutive kills by Wyatt. It was a tip by Wyatt that eventually tied the score 24-24, but the rally ended there. A desperation dig by Leslie County found an opening for a point. The Lady Eagles best hitter, Savannah Sizemore, ended the set with a kill.
The Lady Eagles took the early advantage in the third set with North Laurel’s first lead at 10-9. The score continued to flip flop to the end with both teams having chances to end it. Leslie County led 26-25 when miscommunication allowed a ball to drop and tie the score for the 10th time. A kill by Wyatt put North Laurel on top. The Lady Eagles could not return T.J. Stuber’s serve for game point as North Laurel took the third set.
“I felt like our net play was good at the end of the third set. We were putting balls in the hole,” Ray said. “When we hit the ball, good things happen.”
Leslie County may have been worn down by the final set as North Laurel finally enjoyed an easy win. The Lady Jaguars took the lead for good at 6-5 on a Lindsey Rice ace. It was part of a run of five straight points for North Laurel and extended to an 8-1 run as the lead swelled to 12-6. Leslie County tried to stay close, but another 6-0 rally by North Laurel had them ahead 22-11 as they coasted to the 25-14 win.
The Lady Jaguars were scheduled to play at Madison Southern on Thursday and in the Lady Colonel First Priority Volleyball Classic at Whitley County Friday and Saturday. Teams in North Laurel’s pool include Middlesboro, Knox Central, Campbell County (TN), and Corbin. Other teams in the tournament include South Laurel, Whitley County, Lincoln County, and Bell County.
“It will be a good tournament. I would like to see some wins,” Ray said.